Our History
Rooted in Advocacy

Equality Ohio was founded in 2005 by a group of 65 dedicated LGBT activists and allies from all corners of Ohio after voters passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage and civil unions. Over a decade later, Equality Ohio’s work is broad and focuses on multiple aspects of LGBTQ equality in Ohio.

A primary issue of Equality Ohio’s is a lack of inclusion of LGBTQ people in the laws that make discrimination illegal in Ohio. Just four years after our founding we celebrated the Ohio House of Representatives passing what was then called the Equal Housing & Employment Act with 38 bipartisan co-sponsors. Unfortunately the bill died in the Senate.

In addition to working on nondiscrimination, Equality Ohio engaged in policy work to patch up a lack of inclusive laws. Equality Ohio worked with several cities (despite lawsuits) to establish domestic partnership registries––including two in public school systems. These registries allowed for local employers to have a way of officially determining who was eligible for company benefits. Once these registries were created, we supported revising tax structures which imposed additional burdens on same-sex couples.

Why Marriage Matters

In September of 2013, Equality Ohio Education Fund, ACLU Foundation of Ohio, and Human Rights Campaign Foundation launched Why Marriage Matters Ohio to win the hearts and minds of Ohioans for marriage equality. In just a few short years, we moved Ohioans from having a 47% favorability of marriage equality to 53%. When the Obergefell ruling was issued, Why Marriage Matters Ohio readied probate courts across the country and held rallies outside of them with clergy on-hand to marry people. Ultimately, we gathered the visible support of over 300 faith leaders throughout Ohio for marriage equality.

The Gay Games

In 2014, Cleveland+Akron hosted the Gay Games. The Gay Games are open to all––but specifically meant to be opening and welcoming to LGBTQ people. Connie Schultz, who received a Pulitzer for, among other works, a piece on same sex marriage and who we honored as an Ally of the Year, spoke passionately about LGBTQ equality in the opening ceremony.

Equality Ohio secured the participation of nearly 100 elected leaders in Gay Games ceremonies and events.

Ohio Business Competes

Support from the business community began to increase around this time as a result of the push for marriage equality. In August of 2015 Equality Ohio, ACLU of Ohio, and Human Rights Campaign started Ohio Business Competes. Ohio Business Competes is a no-cost, nonpartisan coalition of corporations, universities, and law firms that are supportive of LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policy at the state level.

Ohio Fairness Act

In January of 2018, the Ohio House of Representatives gave the Ohio Fairness Act, which would add LGBTQ people to the nondiscrimination laws, proponent testimony. This was the bills first opportunity for the public to give feedback on this bill in over a decade. Equality Ohio worked with the community to submit 150+ pieces of testimony and we packed two hearing rooms.